Anyone with anxiety has been told to “keep calm” when they’re anxious. Likewise, anyone with anxiety knows how truly obnoxious that comment really is, because it fundamentally misunderstands the meaning of anxiety. Yes, we’d love to calm down, but the thing is, we’ve got this pesky thing called anxiety! However, a video by The Atlantic is totally flipping that concept on its head by suggesting we try to transform our anxiety not to relaxation, but to excitement instead.
In a short video posted on Monday, The Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan tried out the “excitement” theory with Alison Wood Brooks, a professor at Harvard Business School who has previously researched the idea. In a 2014 study, Brooks tested participants by having them complete anxiety-inducing tasks: singing a round of karaoke, doing a math test, and giving a speech.
When participants said “I am excited” before the tasks, they not only felt more positive, but performed better.
That’s exactly why Khazan decided to try it out for herself. “When [people] reappraised their anxiety as excitement, they actually gave better public speeches, they sang better in our karaoke lounge, and they did better on math tests,” Brooks says in the video.
Both excitement and anxiety are aroused emotions, in which your heart beats faster. The difference is that anxiety is negative, whereas excitement is positive — which is why it’s easier to get from anxiety to excitement than to calm.
Check out the full video to watch Khazan trying out the “excitement” trick — and next time you’re anxious about a particular event or performance coming up, don’t bother with that deep breath stuff. Try saying, “I’m excited!”